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Growth Mindset for New Markets and Financial institutions in Singapore

September 04, 2017
BY: Ong Kai Kiat

How can foreign financial institutions grab a slice of the booming Singapore market?

Conditions are ripe for foreign financial institutions to adopt the right growth mindset for new market entry into the Singapore market. First, the Singapore economy had grown faster than expected at 2.7% in the first quarter and further growth is expected in the years ahead. Secondly, Singapore has started to liberalize its financial sector in a series of move.

It started with the regulatory sandbox by the MAS where FinTech companies are allowed to take more risk in November 2016. This is followed by the proposed exemption of track record requirements for FIs who operates in the digital advisory space (also known as robo-advisory) in early June 2017. Finally, in late June 2017, Singapore banks are allowed to invest into digital platforms that match buyers and sellers.

Source: Ministry of Trade and Industry

Out of the $410 billion market size of Singapore, the finance and industry sector plays a prominent role. With growth expected to soar in 2017, we are seeing local players such as Bank of Singapore who are keen to expand their footprint. If you are serious about entering the Singapore market, do refer to our earlier article on cultural awareness and hiring practices in Singapore.

Two financial sectors to explore

The financial industry has many facets which makes it difficult to identify the exact area where there is a market gap for foreign players to enter. For instance, you would not want to come in to compete in the retail banking and mortgage markets against the well funded local giants such as DBS, UOB, OCBC and established foreign banks such as Maybank, CIMB, Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered.

1. Wealth Management with Robo-Advisory

The wealth management market is based mostly on personal relationships between the service provider and the high net worth individuals. If you are from Australia and you know of your close clients who have expanded their base of operations to Singapore and are doing well, you can always follow suit and set up base here. The standard regulation for fund management can be found here.

Assuming a 1% wealth management fee on assets under management (AUM), which excludes performance fee of 10% to 20%, you will need to attract just $25 million AUM to get started in Singapore. Indeed, the three local banks in Singapore had earned a combined $1.5 billion in fees in 2015 alone with strong growth over the past 5 years.

Source: Straits Times

This continued on to year 2016 where wealth management fees accounted for between 15% to 20% of income for DBS and UOB and 30% for OCBC. If you were to approach the wealth management business with a robo-advisory approach, MAS is looking to relax the entry criteria in July 2017 to encourage growth in the industry.

This robo-advisory is relatively young in Singapore and there is no relevant of established players such as Betterment and Wealthfront in Singapore. So the field is left wide open for any player to provide a truly innovative solution to the industry. Being a low cost wealth management solution, the player can also provide financial advice to the under-served mass market in Singapore.

2. FinTech

The FinTech sector in Singapore is mainly focused on the crowdfunding area for loans, equity, products and even real estate. Kickstarter is one of the prominent entry from the United States in September 2016 when they saw that Singaporeans spent US$30 million to back projects on their websites and 110 Kickstarter projects started in Singapore.

Existing players include Funding Societies, Moolah Sense and Capital Match in the loan crowdfunding space, Co-Assets and Investacrowd in the real estate crowdfunding space, FundedHere and Crowd-Genie in the equity crowdfunding space.

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore

The local regulator understands that FinTech is a fledging industry where there is no defined standards as new technology and players are emerging everyday to change the industry landscape. In other words, when you bring a distinctive FinTech service to the market that is different from the current service, you can apply for the Sandbox.

As long as your service is truly beneficial to the public, you don’t have to worry about getting your product to the market. Of course, the FinTech industry is not limited to crowdfunding alone, it includes other segment such as insuretec, payments, blockchain, regtech and so on. In any of these segment, there is tremendous opportunity for the agile player to make a big impact on the scene.

Issues you might face in getting the message across...

Whether you are looking to make your mark in the lucrative wealth management business or the high potential FinTech arena, you will need to get the message across to your potential clients that you have an awesome product that will either solve their pain or grow their business for them. This is especially the case where you are a new entrant into the market. 

Source: HubSpot

According to a HubSpot survey, one of the top difficulties that you will face is to get a response from prospect followed by closing the deal. The harsh reality is that prospects are inundated with a variety of calls from prospective solution providers. What is it that you have that will set you apart from your competitors?

Following that, we have the issue of trust if you are a new entrant. You will have to demonstrate that you have the appropriate local knowledge of how business is conducted and the issues faced by the locals before you will be able to close the deal.

Source: The Financial Brand

If you are financial institution that is trying to break into the Singapore market, outside of the traditional banking industry, you are likely to prioritize the cross selling, customer acquisition and brand awareness as seen in the survey above.

The Solution

All these require the right messaging in terms of your content strategy, distribution, social media strategy, sales strategy, management, mobile presence and other touch points on which your brand is being introduced to your clients. It has to be customized to your actual situation as you enter the Singapore market, regardless of whether you are from Europe, United States or Australia.

There are subtle differences in culture, working environment, assumptions which needs to be examined by experts who have decades of marketing background. We would be able to provide a tailored free business growth assessment using our local knowledge which will save you time and effort to navigate the business landscape in Singapore.


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How effective Sales Enablement can help you hit your Sales Quotas!

August 16, 2017
BY: Ong Kai Kiat

In our previous articles, we touched on the 3 reasons and 3 actions for aligning marketing and sales processes. While the alignment of marketing and sales are important, enablement of sales teams covers a wider area. Sales enablement is the holistic process of implementing strategies, tools and process that would continually increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales team. This is especially important in the highly competitive financial industry in Singapore.

 Famed research company, The Aberdeen Group, found that 84% of companies with best in class sales enablement strategies hit their sales quota, compared to 55% for average companies and 15% for laggard companies. If 84% of your sales team can reach their sales target, your company would grow exponentially. For companies to achieve best in class for enablement of sales teams is a very broad discipline, they can begin with a few vital areas first and move on when they see better results.

Sales enablement - the HTEA (Hiring, Training, Equipping, Assessment) framework

While there are many ways of beginning the sales team enablement conversation, the best way would to look at the recruitment and talent acquisition strategy and process. According to recruitment firm, Michael Page Singapore, the financial industry has the second largest turnover, just behind the technology sector in Singapore.

Source: Michael Page Singapore

Based on their survey, if you have a 10 person team, you can expect 4 to leave in 12 months and if you have a 5 person sales team, you can expect 2 of them to leave for a competitor. This means that you will need to have a robust hiring process where you identify the sales people with the right attributes which you want to bring onto the team. This process has to be owned jointly by the sales and marketing team.

Once you have hired the right folks, the next objective would be to train them to understand your company’s value and have a formal process to improve their sales capabilities. This would include a knowledge building process where the sales experience, design and process, documents and plans of the future are transferred to the new hire. This can be done either in a formal or informal process and if done properly, it would increase the efficiency of your business, reduce risk and harness sales opportunities.

Aside from the external knowledge, your sales person would need to build their internal sales competency in the five areas of achievement motivation, emotional stability, emotional intelligence, accountability and time management.

One of the main advantage of proper training is to reduce the ramp-up time for the new sales staff to productive. The key question to ask is how many months does it take for a new sales hire to reach the same production level as a veteran sales guy.

 Source: CSO Insights 

The answer is simple. Just put the name of every sales person on one column and on the next few columns, put in first, second and third monthly sales until you reach the matured stage. For most sales people, it will take them 16 months to hit full productivity and most managers don’t like the sound of that. This is why one of the top aim of sales enablement would be to reduce the ramp up time.

Besides training, the next key goal is to equip your sales person with the right CRM, social media, marketing collateral and other tools, to hit their sales quota. Finally, the final piece of the puzzle would be to measure their sales metrics from leads to appointments to sales closure. This will tell you the effectiveness of the sales people and their sales manager. 

The metrics would tell a story. For instance, if your private banker is getting lots of leads but manage to convert 1% of them into appointments, then you should look at the quality of the lead or the sales approach process (phone call scripts, email templates) for any weakness. 

53.6% Sales boost - social selling alignment

Social media is the new effective medium to reach out to your customers. We suffer from short attention span with the outburst of information from the Internet age and the best way to reach out to them would be through social media. In social selling, Facebook is not the most dominant unlike social media marketing.

The crown would go to LinkedIn which used by 84% of sales people, followed by Twitter which is used by 38%, then we have Facebook at 28% and finally 15% of sales people use Google+. These sales people have formulated an entire sales strategy and leverage on social marketing tools such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck. When their sales and social selling strategies are aligned, it is found that the organization boost their sales by 53.6%. There is a saying that an increase in sales cure all pain within the organization, so give it a try.

Source: CSO Insights

It has been found that social selling is a good source of leads and research into the qualification of the prospect. This is one reason why LinkedIn is overwhelmingly popular with sales people when they engaged in social selling.

For instance, if your private bank wants to target a high net worth individuals, you can search for the C-suite of companies with turnover of $100 million and above. If you pay for your LinkedIn account, you can easily find such information within the 106 million active users and 467 million of users.

Look at the problem carefully

No two organizations are the same and therefore, they have unique sets of obstacles that is preventing them from hitting their full sales potential. There are no lack of sales enablement solution in the market and CEOs might be tempted to jump onto the first solution that makes sense.

This will create problems down the road when the results are not forthcoming. The first step is to look at the problem of the organization seriously and discover hidden issues that are hindering your progress.

For that, you would require experienced sales person to independently help diagnose your organisation issues. Alchemise Consulting’s Director, Chak Ng, has over 17 years of APAC sales experience and his consulting team can provide an ‘outside of the box’ approach to your business issue.

The benefits of discovery from a complementary business growth assessment can include a focus on digital readiness assessment or sales and marketing alignment.

What’s Next

Now that you know of the importance of aligning both the sales and marketing processes, you will have to take action. In the next article, we will detail the framework to make that alignment possible. Stay tuned.

To find out more about how we can help take your business to the next level, please register below.


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How to quadruple your private banking AUM with sales enablement

August 15, 2017
BY: Ong Kai Kiat

Private banks are essentially sales organization created to win the trust of high net worth individuals which is a tall order for most people. These people may not be in the financial sector but they are usually savvy in their own field of business. With the explosion of information on the Internet, the buying process have changed where these prospects consume content before deciding on whether to engage your company.

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4 Key Ways to increase AUM growth in Singapore Private Banking

August 14, 2017
BY: Ong Kai Kiat

Singapore is well known as the mecca for private banking with over $2.6 trillion in assets under management (AUM) and plenty of opportunities to reach out to the Asia Pacific region. Still, it is a highly competitive industry where the larger Singapore private banks can leverage on their client connections and scale of their support system.

The Financial Times reported that the biggest winner was OCBC’s Bank of Singapore which grew its assets by 44%, followed by UOB Private Bank’s 23% growth and DBS Private Bank’s 8.3% growth. There were losers too. Deutsche Bank lost 13.4% of its AUM, HSBC lost 3.6% while ANZ, Barclays and Societe Generale threw in the towel. Marquee names such as UBS and Citi barely grew by 4.5% and 3.8% respectively. 

Source: efinancecareers

Private banks are faced with rising cost which tends to affect boutiques disproportionately. These rising costs and the shrinking pool of private banks put pressure on private bankers to perform to hit their AUM. They are often given 6 to 12 months to hit their AUM and revenue targets before they are sacked.

As the chief sales officer of your private bank, the vital question is how can you help these private bankers to be more efficient in their sales process. After all, if your private bank must be sold off, everyone’s job is not secure.

Distracted salespeople

The reason why most salespeople don’t perform is that they are often side-tracked by urgent activities with slight importance attached to them. Imagine the routine of the new private banker who had just completed the relevant training and is assigned his own desk. What is the first set of activities that he does?

Source: HubSpot 

Besides getting to know his fellow colleagues, he is likely to start replying emails and to find out about wealth products which he can pitch to his clients. According to a Cirrus Insight study, most salespeople only spend 39% of their time selling to their clients.

In other words, your private banker should be cold calling prospects, attending networking events and parties and following up on the latest development of their clients to grow the business most of their time. While email is a good vehicle for private bankers to keep in touch with their clients, it can evolve into a major activity which may provide satisfaction but add little to the bottomline.

McKinsey studied the diary entries of sales representatives and found out that the worst performers are often fragmented in their task. They spend time in the wrong places and ignore core tasks that will help them reach their strategic objectives. One simple step to cure this would be to ask your salespeople to track their activities. Even informal tracking will allow them to have insights about their working pattern.

Avoid initiative overload

Your private banker might be the smart, attractive, endowed with people skill but they are also expensive, costing the bank between $120,000 to $750,000 per year excluding bonus. However, before a private banker can be effective beyond his own warm market, he or she needs to be supported by CRM, marketing and product platforms.

Beyond these daily functions, it is also important to have periodic strategic reviews about the effectiveness of these strategies. One common way to have a strategic review is to gather the head of departments of these units and rope in some private bankers to form a committee to review it. While your organization might save some money, it creates initiative overload where your employees either do a rush job for the strategic review or they drop their current workload leading to reduced sales.

It would be important to hire an external consultancy to conduct such reviews and free up time for your managers to develop and train the salespeople. This is a smart way to respect the time of your managers and productive sales persons.

Master calendar

The effective manner to implement respect for the time of your managers would be to create a master calendar. Think of your employees’ time as you would of scare capital. Only invest their time for projects with positive net present value. Having a master calendar would allow you to plan the activities in advance and allocate schedules to advance your key priorities.

This will allow you to root out time wasting and unnecessary activities. This will cut your private bankers’ excessive involvement in meetings and allow you to arrange overseas clients’ meetings in this same period when your private banker is scheduled to travel. A master calendar will also allow managers to cut down on reporting meetings and spend more time on performance meeting where decisions are made to correct the course of action.

Focus for success

An unprecedented amount of wealth is being created in Asia and this means unbounded opportunities for growing assets under management for the well prepared private bank. Even the largest private banks are faltering, this shows that size is not the key determining factor for success.

A boutique private bank will just have to focus on the key sales activity and provide appropriate support for their private bankers. This will allow them to overcome the smaller size of their support system and product library to create compelling value for their high net worth individuals and build a successful assets under management empire.

To help identify where you can further improve your AUM growth and sales efficiencies in Singapore, please register below to talk to our local Singaporean specialist. 


If you missed our last article, read it here: 3 reasons for alignment of sales and marketing in financial institutions

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Marketing Financial Services - A differentiator is marketing automation

August 08, 2017
BY: Ong Kai Kiat

The Singapore financial scene is highly competitive. For us to understand the level of competition, we can refer to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) financial institutions directory which is open to public. As of 24 July 2017, there are 128 commercial banks (5 local and 123 foreign banks), 420 fund managers, 45 corporate finance advisors, 181 insurers, 39 research houses and so on.

In other words, for every lucrative segment of the market, we have ample competition vying for the same pool of qualified customers. For foreign companies who are seeking to break into the local market as a springboard to capture the wider ASEAN and Asia market, the door is wide open but you would have to differentiate yourself against the sea of competitors. Marketing for Financial Services in Asia is no easy task, especially in Singapore where budgets are limited.

Marketing automation for financial services institutions

If you have a solid product and team behind you, the third vital component is to craft an effective message and reach your target audience effectively. According to research by Sirius Decision, marketing automation is lowest in the financial services sector at 4%, compared to 15.5% average across industries.

Marketing automation is the process of automating repetitive marketing activities (from advertisement to email marketing to social media management) so that your institution can reach your clients on multiple channels effectively. Important activities include lead generation, lead scoring, work flow automation and analytics to find out what works.

Inbound automated marketing is often integrated with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to form a scalable environment to deliver effective marketing campaigns and sales enablement. For financial institutions, an automation platform provides the following three areas that would give you the cou the competitive advantage:

1. Optimization

At the very basic level, it means that repetitive tasks can be automated and you will require less staff for your lead nurturing and marketing campaigns. For instance, you have a prospect who filled in a form inquiring about your product. After his question has been answered and he is not ready to purchase yet, the old school method would be to leave him alone.

The optimized method would be nurture this lead through sending automated emails, first with an introductory email, followed by other customized emails which feeds him with value along his buyer journey. Without an automated marketing system, your financial institution would not be able to handle the volume to have a meaningful conversion, especially for a small and medium sized institution.

With an automated marketing system, you can push customized content to your client based on their personality, buying habits, stage of their sales process and so on. You can have an editorial calendar that would publish content automatically on different social media platforms at the right times. Your marketing staff is then free to focus on higher value-added work and reach out to a wider audience

2. Analytics

You can’t improve on something which you can’t measure effectively. If you have a closed case, the important question would be which channel did the lead come from? What is the marketing initiative that resulted in this batch of clients? Do you have a proper sales funnel where you are getting the targeted number of visitors, prospects, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads and so on.


Source: Raven Tools 

All the major systems such as Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua, Act-On have analytics embedded in them. It would allow you to identify the strength and weakness of your marketing and sales strategy at a glance.

3. Customer Retention

After you have gotten the customer, it is not the end of the road as competition is lurking around the corner. With marketing automation software, you can check out their activities on your website. If your sales people see that your customer has downloaded your whitepaper on Technology ETFs, your sales staff can add value by talking about technology to get your client to reveal more about his interest as part of their regular engagement.

This is a good way to remain relevant to your clients and look for ways to improve your content there. This will stop them from reaching out to another service provider for a solution. Next, customers who regularly download your materials and engage on your social media accounts are priceless to you. They provide social proof and give credibility to your sales pitch. Therefore, you should reach out to them and reward them for their loyalty.

After you have built a strong relationship with them, you can start to ask for favourable testimonial and feedback on social media. Lastly, you can use the same lead nurturing technique to upsell more solutions to them. For instance, they might have purchased a wealth product but you can start to sell insurance or will-writing products to them and rope in the entire family.

Crowded but Still Prosperous

The Singapore market might be crowded but there is a niche for every financial institution who has a solid product and team. We are living in Asia where there is growing demand for financial services as wealth is being created at a record pace. Standard Chartered noted that the liberalization and deepening of capital markets will result in a much larger financial market in 2025.

The market is indeed competitive but your company can still prosper and thrive with the proper marketing platforms, sales and implementation strategy. There will be some initial cost but it would be worth it and necessary as it allows your company to stand out from the crowd.

For an independent commentary piece on selecting a marketing automation tool from our guest reviewer Jamie Strachan, please click here



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